A review of Season 6, Episode 13, of AMC's The Walking Dead
This week was a battle of the ladies, female Saviors vs Maggie and Carol, both literally and figuratively. And while the literal combat is pretty brutal at times it’s nothing compared to the figurative face-offs that occur. After being taken hostage at the end of the last episode Maggie and Carol are stowed away while the leading lady of their Savior captors, Paula, mulls over the best way for her and her people to get everything. That’s where the episode remains, with these characters in this hideaway, which only serves to ratchet up the tension and emotionality of the episode.
From the moment they’re taken Carol falls back onto what she’s the best at…lowering other people’s expectations of her. She plays weak and scared, hyperventilating and clutching a rosary (which came off the dead body pulled from the room), as she tearily watches everyone and everything. The Saviors snicker at her, wonder how it is she’s still alive, and almost seem to feel sorry for her. Obviously this is all part of Carol’s plan and she’s working hard to find a way to escape, but I think it’s more than that. I think Carol’s fear is real, but unlike the Saviors’ theory that she’s afraid to die, I believe Carol is afraid of what she’s capable of, how many more she’ll have to kill, and what that will mean for her mental and emotional well-being. Carol’s shown a growing discomfort with what she can do and how easily she can do it, a worry underlined last episode by her kill tally of 18. She knows, if she has to, she can and will kill anyone without thinking twice, but she doesn’t know what that will mean for her in the long run.
As if to give her a glimpse into what she could have, could still, become lead captor, Paula, is revealed as something of a mirror to Carol. Once a wife and mother with a simple secretarial job Paula almost boasts about how she first killed her boss to survive and stopped counting and feeling once her kills reached double digits. Now in a relationship with a man, Donny, who angrily slaps her in front of the group Paula dismisses Carol’s mention of Ed in attempts to bond with claims that Donny’s just someone to keep the bed warm who she could kill in his sleep without a second thought. People are just sacks of flesh and meat to be taken down if they’re in the way of her survival. Paula presents as everything Carol is, beginning to end, but without the guilt and regret Carol still carries over those she’s killed. Paula is Carol without a conscience.
Like Carol, Maggie also has a mirror in the form of the youngest of the Savior ladies, Michelle. Though Michelle presents as tough as the rest, mocking and questioning Maggie’s intelligence given her pregnancy along with the others, there are clear signs she still cares about certain people. Missing part of a finger she admits to Maggie that it was punishment for stealing gas to drive out and look for her boyfriend, who happened to be one of the bikers Daryl blew up a few episodes ago. She also has a tattoo of her father’s name on her wrist and confesses she’d planned on naming her own baby after him, but lost the pregnancy. It makes both the audience and (no doubt) Maggie wonder what could become of Maggie if she were to lose her child and Glenn. Would she become this cold and angry? …Let’s hope we never have to find out. What is most thought-provoking though is Michelle telling Maggie “you’re not one of the good guys, you should know that” because, in many ways, Michelle’s not wrong. The Saviors’ were attacked, unprovoked, and took some of their attackers to get one of their own back. They are doing exactly what Rick’s group would do if their positions were reversed.
Of course, eventually, Maggie and Carol do get themselves free. Carol first, sharpening and using the cross on the rosary as a way to cut through the duck tape over her hands, and then Maggie with Carol’s help. Carol wants to just go knowing where Rick and the group will be thanks to overhearing Paula’s radio conversations with him, but Maggie insists on sticking to the agreement with Hilltop and killing all the Saviors. Carol continues to be reluctant as Maggie starts to set up the deaths of their captors with a cold determination and enough viciousness to make Carol increasingly uncomfortable. Carol herself doesn’t really make a move until Michelle jumps Maggie and slashes her belly after which Carol shoots the woman in the head without a thought. Something that Paula sees and actually seems impressed by…right before she charges Carol leaving both with no option but to engage in a fight to the death. Obviously Carol wins, impaling Paula on a spike with a Walker right there to start eating her face. It’d be a celebratory moment if Carol didn’t seem so devastated by her kill count rising.
Again Carol asks Maggie that they just leave, go meet Rick, and again Maggie insists they have to kill all the Saviors. They have to stay there, wait for Paula’s reinforcements, and kill them too. Carol resigns to the idea and they set up a trap for the next wave of Saviors, ultimately burning them all alive before finally heading out of the building only to be greeted by raised guns…thankfully these gun-toters are Rick and the group.
The ladies finally seem to relax and let what they’ve just done truly, fully, hit them. Maggie almost falls apart in Glenn’s arms proclaiming that she “can’t anymore”…whether this is kill, go on a mission while pregnant, or be separated from Glenn isn’t clear, but I’m presuming it’s a little bit of all three and then some. Carol, perhaps in shock, initially seems disconnected from the others, but when Daryl comes over to ask if she’s okay she confesses she’s not and cries as he pulls her into a reassuring hug.
Rick turns to their captive, Primo, and asks (probably for the hundredth time) where Negan is. Primo smirks, mocks them, and states he’s Negan. As if to underline the risk of Rick’s group becoming the same emotionless killing machines as Walkers or Saviors Rick shoots him dead without blinking.
Throughout the episode every Savior, female and male, claims they are Negan. The eldest female Savior, Molly, laughingly explains they are all Negan. There’s a great symbolism in that with Negan standing in for what they’ve become in order to survive in this world: cold, emotionless, killers with no sense of remorse. Negan becomes less a person and more of a method of survival. The big question remains: Are Rick’s group going to become Negan too or will their humanity remain in the face of the Negans already in the world? …On a more practical note I wonder what it is that would get these people to pull an “I am Spartacus!” for Negan; are these Saviors especially loyal for a particular reason or do they just figure they’re going to die either way and that Negan’s way, should he discover who ratted him out, is probably worse?
It was both exhilarating and heartbreaking to watch Maggie and Carol somewhat switch roles. Maggie bashing in people’s heads without hesitation and insisting they kill everyone is a new side of her that I have to presume comes from the burgeoning momma bear within her…it was awesomely badass to watch, but I confess I was relieved to see it still affected her in the end. Carol giving Paula multiple opportunities to go, run away, was poignant as it showed just how much she didn’t want to kill anymore. While I cheered her on in the tussle with Paula, was relieved she won, I was crushed to watch the weight of another kill sink into Carol’s soul. In fact I was crushed every time Carol killed someone and noted the increase of her tally this episode.
I don’t think the slash to Maggie’s stomach was especially severe — she’s never seen holding her stomach in worry or pain — but I hope she goes to Alexandria or Hilltop to get checked out, she is still pregnant after all.
(If you'd like to read previous episode reviews from this season feel free to go here.)